In a significant ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has reversed a summary judgment in favor of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and two of its deputies, in a case involving a man who was arrested after criticizing the police.
The plaintiff, John Jordan, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest after he criticized deputies who were questioning his nephew about a car accident. The charges were later dropped, but Jordan filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force. The magistrate judge initially granted the deputies’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, dismissing each of these claims.
However, in a turn of events, the Tenth Circuit Court reversed the order granting summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court concluded that Jordan’s conduct was protected by the First Amendment, as established by City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 453–54 (1987). Therefore, there could be no arguable probable cause for his arrest based on that conduct.
The decision underscores the importance of the First Amendment in protecting the right to criticize police and the implications this has for the doctrine of qualified immunity. The case is now set to proceed further, bringing the issue of police conduct and the rights of citizens into sharp focus.